A Biography – By Glen O’Brien
BLONDIE was the greatest pop band of the New Wave Punk era. They were pop because you can’t really say they were new wave or punk, or funk, or disco or art for that matter. They did everything that interested them – including the first rock/reggae and rock/disco. To some they were new wave with their ironic words, cool haircuts and Debbie in day glo Steven Sprouse fashions. To some they were punks – mocking rock dinosaurs and Debbie the cover girl on Punk Magazine. Whatever they did, it all came out sounding great and BLONDIE remains one of the biggest hitmaking bands of our time.
The original BLONDIE was formed in 1974 by art student/fallen away hippie guitarist Chris Stein and ex-Max’s Kansas City waitress and Playboy bunny, vocalist Debbie Harry, Drummer Clem Burke and keyboard player Jimmy Destri joined in 1975. The band played in New York downtown circuit – CBGB’s, Max’s Kansas City and the Mercer Arts Center. They collected a big following and in 1976 they recorded their first album BLONDIE. It was released in 1977 and was well received. After a successful stint in L.A., the band toured in support of Iggy Pop and David Bowie.
In the summer of 1977 they released their second album. Plastic Letters, and toured Europe and Asia. In March of 1978 the single “Denis Denis” hit #2 in the UK. That summer the band worked with producer Mike Chapman to hone their radio sound and create the album Parallel Lines. The single “Picture This” made #12 in the UK and the follow-up “Hanging on the Telephone” hit #5. At the end of the year Debbie made her first film, Union City.
In 1979 BLONDIE had their first #1 US hit with “Heart Of Glass” which also sold over a million copies in the UK. The album sold over 20 million copies worldwide. The fourth single from Parallel Lines, “Sunday Girl” also hit #1 in the UK. In September 1979 the band’s fourth album “Eat To The Beat” was released, along with the first ever album length video. Before the year’s end BLONDIE had continued their chart presence in the UK with the #2 hit “Dreaming.”
In February 1980 they hit #1 in England again with “Atomic.” Two months later they hit #1 in the US a second time with “Call Me,” from the film American Gigolo. Before the end of the year Eat to the Beat was certified platinum and Debbie was on “The Muppet Show.”
The fifth BLONDIE album, Autoamerican was released in Janauary and the first single “The Tide Is High” made #1 in the UK. The first reggae tinged hit, it was #1 in the U.S. by March. The band appeared on the popular TV show “Solid Gold,” and soon the album was solid platinum. In August Debbie released her first solo album, “Koo Koo,” produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic and featuring a cover by H.R. Giger, the Academy Award winning sci-fi artist who created the Alien creature.
By 1982 there was dissension in the band, but they still managed to produce a final album The Hunter. The single “Island of Lost Souls” was the band’s last US hit. In the meantime Chris was felled by a rare and often fatal genetic disease, and the band fell apart. Debbie spent the next several years nursing Chris back to health.
Debbie went on to appear in numerous films and plays and to create music in various contexts. In recent years she has been the featured vocalist of the Jazz Passengers. Jimmy left music for a while to become a family man and contractor. Chris produced various bands in New York. Clem continued to record and tour with top acts.
The new album, the seventh BLONDIE album of new material, was produced by Craig Leon, who actually worked on their first album with legendary producer Richard Gottherer.
BLONDIE was considered one of the inventors of new wave and/or punk, but the group always resisted classification. At the height of punk anti-disco sentiment, the group rocked the dance floors of the world with the updated disco of “Heart of Glass.” Today BLONDIE is as elusive, uncategorizable and ironic as ever.
Hearing No Exit is truely surprising because it’s a perfect evolution of BLONDIE as we knew it. It’s as if the band continued to develop, to tighten even, despite the fact that they weren’t together. The trademark elements are still there: that perfect, propulsive beat; Debbie’s unmistakable voice, seductive, soulful yet ironic; atmospheric keyboards, sometimes lush, sometimes eerie; and brilliantly articulated guitar lines that never approach cliche. And, of course, the thing that stands out, especially today, is the band’s ability to create perfectly crafted pop songs – catchy, instantly memorable, yet full of subtleties that continue to grow on you with repetition. It’s just as good as it ever was, but sweeter.
“Maria,” is a sexy pop anthem in the tradition of the great BLONDIE hits – dynamic but sweep, sensual but with a streak of wicked wit, unique but utterly contagious. “Night Wind Sent” is a haunting, delicate love song, that’s all beauty. “Forgive and Forget” is a sort of tom tom driven creation myth – jungle drums meet electronic rhythms to create an exotic rhapsodic, moody dance music – hypnotism with hooks.
BLONDIE was never a novelty act, but even their hits showed a remarkable gift for transcending genres and fusing different moods and styles. Now, as bona fide adult and virtuoso players and writers, they’ve developed some even more startling hybrids. No Exit is a high powered monster mash, a Transylvanian rap dozens-duel between Debbie and Coolio that’s the musical equivalent of Mystery Science Theater 3000. “Nothing is Real but the Girl” is a wild vampire ska romp, sort of Bela Lugosi meets Skatalites, unprecedented but undeniably fun. Debbie who has spent the last few years fronting an innovative jazz band, the Jazz Passengers, shows off cool and kooky chanteuse moves in “Boom Boom in the Zoom Zoom Room.”
It’s a classic BLONDIE album, but even better in ways. The band takes itself less seriously so the songs are even wittier. And two of the good things about getting older are that if you play your cards right you can get smarter and you can get more skilled. BLONDIE holds a winning hand with No Exit.
For more information, contact: Ashley Smith, 310-385-4815, firstname.lastname@example.org
1998-99 CRITIC QUOTES ON BLONDIE
“Hordes came to pay homage to one of America’s classic pop groups, including scores of teenage blondes… Harry is absurdly, unfeasibly, almost illegally, sexy… hits sounded fresher than yesterday because somehow Blondie retains an edginess many younger bands lack… Far from being a mere nostalgia show, the set showed with ‘Forgive and Forget’ and other super newies that these old stagers retain a grasp of stiletto-sharp pop.”
“Before Madonna, No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani, Garbage’s Shirley Manson or any of the Spice Girls, there was gorgeous Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry… Debbie was one of the first to open doors for women.”
NEW YORK POST
“The word is that Deborah Harry and the gang are going to have the comeback of the year.”
“Blondie is 1998 are determined to show that life is back to normal and age is immaterial when you have the songs. And songs are something that Blondie never had a shortage of… twenty years later, both the songs and the band ooze the ‘IT’ factor. Charisma, it would seem, is a lifelong thing.”
“Debbie Harry’s grin may have won over men and women alike 20 years ago but it’s her music, her sassiness and her obvious strength that have made her a lasting influence. Madonna, Courtney Love, Spice Girls, bow down the lot of you to the Powerpop Queen.”
“I had never seen them better… the performance was one of those timeless moments people haunt clubs for.”
VILLAGE VOICE (NEW YORK)
“Our most requested non-holiday record for the past two weeks has been ‘Maria’ by Blondie (Beyond Music). Back when Alanis was getting ready to start grammar school, when Jewel was learning how to walk to the outhouse in Alaska, Blondie was starting a revolution on stages all over the world.”
GREG STRASSELL, VP OF PROGRAMMING CBS
“They are one of the few bands to emerge from the New York new wave scene that have stood the test of time and their hits will be just as fresh as ever.”
M’BORO E GAZ
“A couple of the new songs sound like suture hits and I can’t wait to witness the second coming of the mother of all blondes.”
SUN EXPRESS (LONDON)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
NOVEMBER 16, 1998
ROCK GROUP BLONDIE ANNOUNCES FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE IN SIXTEEN YEARS ON AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS JANUARY 11, 1999 ON ABC-TV.
RAP ARTIST COOLIO TO JOIN BAND IN A SPECIAL PERFORMANCE OF “NO EXIT”, THE TITLE TRACK FROM BLONDIE’S NEW ALBUM, DUE FEBRUARY 23RD.
SOHO, New York – The musical group Blondie announced today that their first television performance in nearly sixteen years will happen on the 26th annual American Music Awards, airing live from Los Angeles January 11 on ABC-TV. The band will perform “No Exit” (the title track from their forthcoming album of original music) with groundbreaking rapper Coolio.
Blondie leapt indelibly onto music’s landscape in 1976 and to date have sold over 40 million albums world-wide, including essential titles Plastic Letters, Parallel Lines, Eat To The Beat and Autoamerican, and enjoyed four #1 singles: “Heart Of Glass”, “Call Me”, “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture.” By combining Funk, Disco and Reggae with their decidedly Punk roots, Blondie shattered musical convention and still defies easy categorization. Blondie’s first original record in 16 years, No Exit is due out February 23, 1999 on Beyond.
Coolio broke prominently onto the music scene in 1994, when he experienced two #1 world-wide hits with “Fantastic Voyage” and “Gangsta’s Paradise”; Coolio has sold over 20 million records to date.
For more information, contact:
Ashley Smith @ Beyond 310-385-4815; email@example.com
John Reilly @ Shorefire Media 718-522-7171